English Premier League July 17, 2008

A second-class competition

Eighteen teams for a "Premier" competition is at least ten too many, and 20 is utter lunacy. One Twenty20 competition per summer is quite sufficient
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For Kent the only route out of bankruptcy is to commission a vast hotel and sports complex at the far end of the beautiful St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury © Getty Images
 

Anyone who truly believed Twenty20 cricket would be the vehicle to drive English cricket into the 21st century clearly forgot one crucial factor - the reactionary gentlefolk of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who have not yet progressed from the 19th. Wednesday's unveiling of the English Premier League was a squib as damp as those that spluttered on the Lord's outfield at the opening of the 1999 World Cup. The vested interests in the shires have snuffed out the greatest opportunity for change that the English game has ever known.

For a fleeting moment last week, there was a chance to create something groundbreaking - a competition that could re-establish England as a pivot of world cricket. MCC's chief executive, Keith Bradshaw, and the Surrey chairman, David Stewart, certainly thought so. They envisaged a tournament comprising nine teams, 57 matches and 25 days, hosted by the Test-class grounds but inclusive of the talents from the lesser counties. It was radical, but with estimated profits of £47 million for the first year alone, it wasn't merely workable, it had the means to rival the IPL as the premier domestic tournament in world cricket.

Instead, by refusing even to countenance a condensation of the teams involved, the ECB board has wilfully condemned the English game to a lifetime of second-class status. Eighteen teams for a "Premier" competition is at least ten too many, and 20 is utter lunacy. One Twenty20 competition per summer is quite sufficient; two in quick succession - and involving nine-tenths of the same competitors - defies any semblance of logic.

And yet, you wouldn't believe any of that to judge from the self-congratulation of the county executives, who are tripping over each other to proclaim how "exciting" they find the new proposals - even Stewart, who was last week being accused of treachery, is now, all of a sudden, "delighted". Back in 2002, a whole year before the Twenty20 Cup was born (out of desperation, lest we forget), Wisden Cricketers' Almanack described county cricket as "a confederacy of mediocrity" in urgent need of reform. Six years on, that confederacy is alive and thriving, and the last chance for change has just been slogged out of the park.

The pity is that the counties - particularly the have-nots, paralysed by fear and loathing of their more marketable neighbours - have not only cooked their golden goose but neutered the gander as well. When Giles Clarke coined the term "EPL" at the beginning of the season, it was a deliberate choice of acronym. That is the moniker by which England's Premier League football competition is known throughout India, a tournament that is by far and away the most watched, supported and money-spinning on the planet. Now, India will never be rivalled as the most significant market in world cricket, but as football's EPL has demonstrated, quality has a habit of transcending culture.

England merely had to find a formula that maximised the country's numerous assets, and let market economics do the rest. Suffice to say they blew it.

Instead, and inevitably, all radical notions were mown down before any debate could get underway. Last Friday's leak of the Bradshaw-Stewart plan was no accident. As Jim Cumbes, the CEO of Lancashire (who supported the proposal) said while resigning his post as chairman of the county chief executives, the counties have been gripped by "panic and paranoia". Like a clique of nimby-ish parish councillors faced with the need to regenerate their rural way of life, they've buttressed the doors to the village hall, rather than risk an awkward meeting with the developers.

County cricket is proud to be a rural pastime, but that is both its greatest asset and its most fundamental flaw. Ironically the reigning Twenty20 champions, Kent, best epitomise the paradox. The timeless beauty of the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury is soon to be nothing more than a soothing memory, because the county has decided the only route out of bankruptcy is to commission a vast hotel and sports complex at the far end of the ground, and sell off a further portion of land to a housing estate.

 
 
The pity is that the counties - particularly the have-nots, paralysed by fear and loathing of their more marketable neighbours - have not only cooked their golden goose but neutered the gander as well. Like a clique of nimby-ish parish councillors faced with the need to regenerate their rural way of life, they've buttressed the doors to the village hall, rather than risk an awkward meeting with the developers
 

All over the country, the same development woes are being addressed - Taunton was a partial building site during the South Africa tour match earlier this month, while Worcestershire may need an entirely new home if it is to recover from the desperate floods at New Road in 2007. And yet, given Twenty20's unrivalled financial clout, a solution was there to be grasped. A prudent acceptance that some venues are quite simply more viable than others could have safeguarded the non-Test counties' income and enshrined their bucolic tranquility for evermore.

What would it have mattered if, as a result, the gap had been widened between the haves and have-nots? The likes of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire have been living on borrowed time (not to mention funds) for decades, and no one but a handful of county diehards would mourn any further loss of status. Besides, the cat's cradle of complications that is the ECB's constitution means that a modicum of compromise in the boardroom could have led to an enrichment of every level of the game from grassroots upwards.

At present, any official tournament must be open to all 18 first-class counties, and it requires a minimum of 30 votes to change that legislation. The idea would therefore have had to be sold to the minor counties as well, who in turn could have secured a life-changing cut of the profits. Instead, the plan was blindly trashed before it had been read, and so all there is left to do is pick the positives out of the measures that have been adopted.

To be fair, the EPL as it stands could yet prove a qualified success. England is certainly attractive to the players, for reasons that extend beyond the strength of the pound. With the exception of the Caribbean, hardly any big cricket takes place in June anywhere else in the world, so none of the participants would require a "window" to be created in their schedules. Also, the venues are so close to one another that the globetrotting players could take a break from airport departure lounges for the duration of their stay.

Most crucially of all, the English time zone (as football has discovered) is tailormade for the Indian market, with matches beginning at 9.30pm India time and ending shortly past midnight. Set against that, however, is the difficulty of persuading people to watch. The beauty of the IPL was the richness of the talent in each side - with only eight franchises to choose from, the best players were on show in each and every game.

In the English version, however, that talent will be stretched across 20 teams and two divisions, and even with three overseas players per squad, that adds up to a minimum of 60 big names. There are barely that number in the entire world game, and half of them will never actually get to feature in the premier division of the Premier League. When you consider that a salary cap is also being considered to further hinder the free market, the stage is being set for an awful lot of mediocrity.

But if that's the way the ECB want to play it, there's clearly no way to dissuade them. "Broadcasters in this country and in Asia are interested in county sides - they are not interested in made-up sides," was Clarke's explanation, which is a staggering misrepresentation of the facts of the IPL. The Rajasthan Royals may have begun as a list of names on a sheet of paper, but they went on to become an extension of the legend of Shane Warne. Ultimately it's the players that will make or break this tournament, assuming the administrators haven't broken it already.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Frumps on | July 19, 2008, 13:38 GMT

    Mr Miller, I agree with EVERY WORD you write. What a pity Mr Boycott, Gower Botham et al, continue to promote our County Mediochraty. A man landing from Mars a couple of weeks ago, and listening to those guys, would have believed that England were world champions after beating a sub standard New Zealand side (their best players bailing out to join ICL and IPL) home and away. Will they continue to tell us how fantastic the 18 Counties are at developing great Test players, after we are thrashed once again by Australia next year. Wait for it......and all the excuses!!! Yes the ECB (or should I say the County Chairman) have once again failed to grasp the nettle and move English cricket forward. The Bradshaw/Stewart proposals could have been a first step to creating truly 'Premier' competitions, not only twenty20, but one day and County leagues as well. Looks like we will have to wait a few more years for common sense to prevail!

  • POSTED BY Patrick_Clarke on | July 19, 2008, 13:01 GMT

    Just one more note of pessimism - has anyone noticed that the proposed launch date of June 2010 will clash directly with the next soccer World Cup. I wonder what effect that will have on attendances, tv coverage and sponsorship. I'm surprised this factor has either been completely overlooked or is being ignored.

  • POSTED BY jongemmell on | July 19, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    I agree that two Twenty20 tournaments is one too many. However, I can't accept your point on reducing the number of sides to just nine. In fact, you make the point yourself about football's Premier league being the most watched and supported around the globe. How many teams in the Premier League? 20. Behind them a range of divisions with most cities and towns having a representative, i.e. providing a sense of identity. We need cricket to expand not shrink. As one of your so-called 'handful of county diehards', ie a Leicestershire fan, I would have little interest in following a competition if Leicester were not in it. What's more important: the development of cricket or making money? Its a pity that the UK editor of Cricinfo has to use terms like 'mediocrity' to describe English cricket. Fortunately, there are thousands who don't agree.

  • POSTED BY anishjosh on | July 19, 2008, 1:31 GMT

    I think that the IPL has taken over the 20/20 domestic stage. There is no point for England to create thier own 20/20 comp beacause, although they have the facilities and a great administration, they dont have the money. They don't have 1 million passionate viewers gluing their eyes to the TV. India's number one sport is cricket and england's is football. There is no way anybody will take over the English Premier League, so what's the point of making a league in a country where cricket is second-class and where cricket is poor at the grassroots. I strongly recommend to the ECB to take back their decision of creating a league beacause it will bring them more loss than gain. Dont destroy cricket in the country where it originated. Please.

  • POSTED BY Serenity on | July 18, 2008, 19:55 GMT

    When England announced at the start of the series against South Africa that they were unwilling to participate in a trial of a referrals system, I knew they would come to regret it. Strauss and Collingwood in the First Test and Cook earlier today were all on the end of wrong (and badly wrong at that) decisions, all of which would have been overturned on referral. Why do people rave about Bowden's quality as an umpire? - he's a showman first, a competent official an increasingly distant second. To make matters worse South Africa appear to believe that a referral system is in place (at least for them). Why else was Amla reprieved? Yes he wasn't out (but neither were Strauss, Collingwood or Cook). The onfield umpire's decision is final (right or wrong) and Bowden and Harper sacrificed their authority today to a bullying South African captain (who should be disciplined - ideally a one match ban) and by doing so set a very dangerous precedent for the rest of the series.

  • POSTED BY sap1979 on | July 18, 2008, 12:12 GMT

    As an Indian I feel very good that other fellow Indians are wishing well to the ECB with their new venture. I wonder how many from the west had such intentions when the IPL was about to start. This blog in a way is revealing the true colours of many. Wonder if Gideon about to write something

  • POSTED BY Farce-Follower on | July 18, 2008, 5:35 GMT

    England had it all...beautiful venues, great atmosphere, perfect subcontinental viewing times...and they had to blow it away.

    No Indian viewer has a preference for matches played in India. We know that the stadiums are sub-standard and the administration pathetic. We love the beautiful grounds of England and Australia. England truly muffed it up.

  • POSTED BY manohar_dudda on | July 18, 2008, 3:36 GMT

    It was an expected move I guess and it can't be more stupid.. something that the English cricket will regret for decades to come. Honestly, I hope it fails badly enough! Watch out for those "stars" of the English cricket... oops! you can't cross the fence and hop in to IPL!!

  • POSTED BY mad_hatter on | July 17, 2008, 19:47 GMT

    There seems to be a huge amount of cynicism around about the new Twenty20 proposals - a field day for those who like nothing other than to have a moan. I totally disagree and think the new proposals are excellent - 4 day cricket is preserved as that feeds the test side, the pointless and utterly dull Pro40 is got rid of at last and we have the entertainment of Twenty20 in its place. Why can't we have two Twenty20 competitions? Football has the FA Cup and the League Cup, for sure the FA Cup is the most important but both have their place. The new structure will work and give all types of cricket fans what they want.

  • POSTED BY Serenity on | July 17, 2008, 19:21 GMT

    I am reading "Pommies" by William Buckland, which should be recommended reading for all administrators. Its a forensic financial analysis of English cricket, which recommends a root and branch rethink of the professional game in this country. Mr Buckland suggests that the focus of the game must centre on creating long-term success for the England team in all forms of the International game, rather than the case currently (personified by the announcement of the ridiculously bloated EPL)of supporting the 18 first class counties come what may. A huge opportunity for change has been missed and this announcement has the potential to condemn England to being a middling international team for years to come, who cost an increasing fortune to watch assuming you can get a ticket in the first place. Heads should have rolled for this, but instead they will all be patting themselves on the back entranced by Stanford's millions.

  • POSTED BY Frumps on | July 19, 2008, 13:38 GMT

    Mr Miller, I agree with EVERY WORD you write. What a pity Mr Boycott, Gower Botham et al, continue to promote our County Mediochraty. A man landing from Mars a couple of weeks ago, and listening to those guys, would have believed that England were world champions after beating a sub standard New Zealand side (their best players bailing out to join ICL and IPL) home and away. Will they continue to tell us how fantastic the 18 Counties are at developing great Test players, after we are thrashed once again by Australia next year. Wait for it......and all the excuses!!! Yes the ECB (or should I say the County Chairman) have once again failed to grasp the nettle and move English cricket forward. The Bradshaw/Stewart proposals could have been a first step to creating truly 'Premier' competitions, not only twenty20, but one day and County leagues as well. Looks like we will have to wait a few more years for common sense to prevail!

  • POSTED BY Patrick_Clarke on | July 19, 2008, 13:01 GMT

    Just one more note of pessimism - has anyone noticed that the proposed launch date of June 2010 will clash directly with the next soccer World Cup. I wonder what effect that will have on attendances, tv coverage and sponsorship. I'm surprised this factor has either been completely overlooked or is being ignored.

  • POSTED BY jongemmell on | July 19, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    I agree that two Twenty20 tournaments is one too many. However, I can't accept your point on reducing the number of sides to just nine. In fact, you make the point yourself about football's Premier league being the most watched and supported around the globe. How many teams in the Premier League? 20. Behind them a range of divisions with most cities and towns having a representative, i.e. providing a sense of identity. We need cricket to expand not shrink. As one of your so-called 'handful of county diehards', ie a Leicestershire fan, I would have little interest in following a competition if Leicester were not in it. What's more important: the development of cricket or making money? Its a pity that the UK editor of Cricinfo has to use terms like 'mediocrity' to describe English cricket. Fortunately, there are thousands who don't agree.

  • POSTED BY anishjosh on | July 19, 2008, 1:31 GMT

    I think that the IPL has taken over the 20/20 domestic stage. There is no point for England to create thier own 20/20 comp beacause, although they have the facilities and a great administration, they dont have the money. They don't have 1 million passionate viewers gluing their eyes to the TV. India's number one sport is cricket and england's is football. There is no way anybody will take over the English Premier League, so what's the point of making a league in a country where cricket is second-class and where cricket is poor at the grassroots. I strongly recommend to the ECB to take back their decision of creating a league beacause it will bring them more loss than gain. Dont destroy cricket in the country where it originated. Please.

  • POSTED BY Serenity on | July 18, 2008, 19:55 GMT

    When England announced at the start of the series against South Africa that they were unwilling to participate in a trial of a referrals system, I knew they would come to regret it. Strauss and Collingwood in the First Test and Cook earlier today were all on the end of wrong (and badly wrong at that) decisions, all of which would have been overturned on referral. Why do people rave about Bowden's quality as an umpire? - he's a showman first, a competent official an increasingly distant second. To make matters worse South Africa appear to believe that a referral system is in place (at least for them). Why else was Amla reprieved? Yes he wasn't out (but neither were Strauss, Collingwood or Cook). The onfield umpire's decision is final (right or wrong) and Bowden and Harper sacrificed their authority today to a bullying South African captain (who should be disciplined - ideally a one match ban) and by doing so set a very dangerous precedent for the rest of the series.

  • POSTED BY sap1979 on | July 18, 2008, 12:12 GMT

    As an Indian I feel very good that other fellow Indians are wishing well to the ECB with their new venture. I wonder how many from the west had such intentions when the IPL was about to start. This blog in a way is revealing the true colours of many. Wonder if Gideon about to write something

  • POSTED BY Farce-Follower on | July 18, 2008, 5:35 GMT

    England had it all...beautiful venues, great atmosphere, perfect subcontinental viewing times...and they had to blow it away.

    No Indian viewer has a preference for matches played in India. We know that the stadiums are sub-standard and the administration pathetic. We love the beautiful grounds of England and Australia. England truly muffed it up.

  • POSTED BY manohar_dudda on | July 18, 2008, 3:36 GMT

    It was an expected move I guess and it can't be more stupid.. something that the English cricket will regret for decades to come. Honestly, I hope it fails badly enough! Watch out for those "stars" of the English cricket... oops! you can't cross the fence and hop in to IPL!!

  • POSTED BY mad_hatter on | July 17, 2008, 19:47 GMT

    There seems to be a huge amount of cynicism around about the new Twenty20 proposals - a field day for those who like nothing other than to have a moan. I totally disagree and think the new proposals are excellent - 4 day cricket is preserved as that feeds the test side, the pointless and utterly dull Pro40 is got rid of at last and we have the entertainment of Twenty20 in its place. Why can't we have two Twenty20 competitions? Football has the FA Cup and the League Cup, for sure the FA Cup is the most important but both have their place. The new structure will work and give all types of cricket fans what they want.

  • POSTED BY Serenity on | July 17, 2008, 19:21 GMT

    I am reading "Pommies" by William Buckland, which should be recommended reading for all administrators. Its a forensic financial analysis of English cricket, which recommends a root and branch rethink of the professional game in this country. Mr Buckland suggests that the focus of the game must centre on creating long-term success for the England team in all forms of the International game, rather than the case currently (personified by the announcement of the ridiculously bloated EPL)of supporting the 18 first class counties come what may. A huge opportunity for change has been missed and this announcement has the potential to condemn England to being a middling international team for years to come, who cost an increasing fortune to watch assuming you can get a ticket in the first place. Heads should have rolled for this, but instead they will all be patting themselves on the back entranced by Stanford's millions.

  • POSTED BY Quarkian on | July 17, 2008, 18:27 GMT

    Is Mr Miller on the payroll of a test owning country cricket club?

    The franchise system he so longingly craves would have been groundbreaking - by creating an even bigger gulf between the clubs owning a test ground and those that do not.

    There have been comparisons with the football premier league, which has been financially successful, but did they cut the number of clubs in half .... no they cut the number of clubs to 20 - exactly the same number as in the cricket EPL, and did the traditional clubs make way for franchises - no they remained the same as before.

    The franchise idea would also not have been popular with supporters - I would go and watch Kent play 20:20 cricket but I won't go to the Oval to watch some hybrid team full of Surrey, Essex and Northants. players.

    You will get more bums on seats with the system that has been approved, and the biggest share of the money will go to the best supported clubs - who are not always those that own a test ground.

  • POSTED BY Kulaputra on | July 17, 2008, 17:55 GMT

    June cricket and English time zones are a good time to cash in on the Indian TV circuit that is largely empty. However, if cricket is the same sort of rubbish that we see as English domestic cricket on TV these days, it will be an utter failure. Commentary is more interesting than the game.

    It would have been for more refreshing to have just 10 teams or less in the league and make them really premier, getting people from all over the world and to discover a few more Graham Napiers. I guess the English still are to learn from the highly successful Indian Premier league. I do not say so for it made large sums of money, but in India, it brought families closer.

  • POSTED BY Irishfan on | July 17, 2008, 17:32 GMT

    I don't know much about English geography, but from what I understand, counties like Worcestershire, Norhtants, etc. have very low populations and few big cities. If that's the case, then why does ECB persist with them? In my opinion, counties should be pared down to nine... three from each region of England and Wales. A nine team competition in all formats would make the cricket of far higher quality, and produce a good England international squad. I think twenty teams is too much. But then again, I might be wrong. A lot of teams might encourage more England boys to get interested in the game. But for that to happen, KOLPAKS need to be thrown out the window.

  • POSTED BY BapiDas on | July 17, 2008, 17:18 GMT

    I completely agree with Andrew Miller. Twenty20 is NOT Cricket to the purists anyway and they will not be too interested. As for the 'others' too many matches will most certainly make it not so attractive in the end. Granted the shorter version with guaranteed result has the potential for providing entertainment. But can too many matches played every day over a month or so continue to provide the excitement and amusement? I think not.

  • POSTED BY welders on | July 17, 2008, 16:27 GMT

    For pity's sake lets stop this Giles Clarke bloke before he does any more damage to the future of the game in this country. Condemning us yet again to the dark days! Seems to me he has more than a vested interest in preserving the traditions of the county game. David Morgan did more for the game in this country.... I mean he must have been good, the ICC took him on board.

    County cricket needs a big shake up and the ECB needs some radical thinkers like Bradshaw and Stewart to help take the game by the scruff of the neck in this country. Lets preserve crickets future... not condemn it to a life of mediocrity and second class citizenship.

  • POSTED BY Mike_in_Exile on | July 17, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    More predictable county-bashing! Having 18 first-class counties is a commercial liability, but is it really the playing liability that some people claim it to be? I doubt that players such as Paul Collingwood and Steve Harmison would have made it to the England set-up before Durham was a first-class county. The counties for the most part identify and develop talent, bring first-class cricket to places it would never be seen under a more streamlined format, and in return they get blamed for all the ills of the English game, attacked as 'reactionary', and regularly stripped of their best players to fill cushy central contract places.

    The present 20-20 set-up has been a huge success, in terms of takings and spectator interest - they should take the present 20-20 cup and expand it to a season-long league, scrap the Pro40, and turn whatever the old Gillette Cup is called these days back into a knock-out format, instead of the tedious neo-B&H Cup it is now.

  • POSTED BY kingofspain on | July 17, 2008, 13:20 GMT

    The potential for 20/20 to open new markets for cricket is vastly overrated. If you don't watch cricket normally, 20/20 is still boring. Come to think of it, it's boring to most real cricket supporters too. It's had its day, overkill has already arrived.

  • POSTED BY JustinB on | July 17, 2008, 13:03 GMT

    I am glad this article is featured prominently on the website, as it is full of good sense. Too long has cricket in this country been governed by the indulgent self-interest of the counties rather than market forces. It is worth bearing in mind that there is huge interest in cricket in this country, but very little in 'county-based' cricket. The ECB should cater for the disinterested majority, and not the smattering of people who value the admittedly historic but patently obsolete 18 county system. 20 teams is laughable: more matches may mean more money at the gates in the short term than fewer matches, but misses the point of creating sustainable interest in the domestic game. What is needed is fewer teams with a higher concentration of talent, and fewer matches such that they are more competitive. It is also comical that the county chairmen are too myopic to see that if two counties join forces and raise more that twice the money each individual county is better off...

  • POSTED BY Stumay on | July 17, 2008, 12:26 GMT

    Mr Miller is spot-on. The ECB had a chance to change the image of English cricket forever and have selfishly throw it away. The chance to create city-based teams at test venues was a perfect way to compete with England's other main interest- football. I just can't see us being that fussed about the 20/20 format if we are served it up too often. Surely an EPL would and should have replaced the already fairly dull domestic version. This year, attendances are down against previous seasons and all of a sudden, the punters can see that it is in danger of becoming another sleepy version of the County Championship. We needed a new Spring Lamb but ended up with bloated old mutton that is probably best served up away from the major cities.

  • POSTED BY Kentheavenonearth on | July 17, 2008, 11:57 GMT

    Your overly-sentimental picture caption says it all. The St Lawrence like Hove and several other county grounds suffering next to no upkeep investment for decades are really now more 'decrepit' than 'character'. Friday night 20/20 will bring in much needed cash for decent seats and sightlines, but more imprtantly will help subsidise classic redball cricket ! Hats off to Giles Clarke for maintaining the integrity of our HISTORIC major county franchise structure (for that is what it is)and being smart enough to take the Stanford cash on the table when the South Africans didn't ! Major League baseball has more than twenty teams and more than two divisions. And it works well, very well.

  • POSTED BY 200ondebut on | July 17, 2008, 11:38 GMT

    I must support Andrew Millar's views. The current county structure does not help support the national game and is filled with self interest and mediocracy and requires a liberal sprinkling of Kolpak players in order to raise sides. An EPL based around 8 or 9 english sides would have been a great start to the shake up the game needs at County level. The ECB and the Counties need to wake up and smell the coffee - no other Country, not even India with a population many times the size of the UK's, has this many 1st class teams and the most sucessful international sides have a domestic structure with less than 10 teams.

  • POSTED BY SachinIsTheGreatest on | July 17, 2008, 11:36 GMT

    redneck, you've made an excellent point. My thinking is the same that the ECB might not find it so easy to market cricket as EPL. It could be an infringement.

  • POSTED BY TwitterJitter on | July 17, 2008, 10:56 GMT

    Andrew, I completely agree with you. Bradshaw's proposal was the best one for EPL. Twenty teams is ten too many for any one country (except may be USA). A nine team strong EPL would have been a good rival to IPL and together would have lent much more glamor to the champions league. IPL and EPL together with Australia and South African leagues could have taken the games to more countries in the world. Instead we get a 20 team league. ECB missed a wonderful chance to the soccer way. Hopefully, Australia along with New Zealand can form a 6 or 8 franchise league and together with IPL can take the game to the rest of the world.

  • POSTED BY Dragon129 on | July 17, 2008, 10:48 GMT

    I think the "quality transcends culture" comment applies to both the English football premier league and the IPL.I interpret it as meaning that prior to the introduction of the Premier League, English football was the dirty old man of Europe, with fans treated like cattle watching teams made up of British players hacking lumps out of each other.With the introduction of BSkyB's money, and the introduction of foreign talent, the quality of games improved, thus attracting more of the world's top talent, which again improved quality in a virtuous circle.This has made the Premier League a real quality product that sells around the world. The same is true of the IPL - the money attracted some of the world's most talented cricketers, which led to a sharing of skills,an improvement in the quality of 20/20 cricket,and created a product that couldn't fail to be of interest to cricket fans,even purists like me.This flabby EPL plan,however,lacks courage,imagination,and seems doomed to fail.

  • POSTED BY ShortMemory on | July 17, 2008, 10:45 GMT

    Indian board were forced to comeup with IPL when ICL was in place. Now english board considers an alternative to counter IPL ! If i were in IPL administrative team, i would move the calendar of IPL from 2010 to just match these ! If i were english administrator, i would rather welcome that because they can just hide behind a cover and complain that board of indian is muscling its way out using their money power.

  • POSTED BY Georgie_boy on | July 17, 2008, 9:59 GMT

    Andrew, the nub of the issue is that the 18-strong county championship is no longer viable in any form. As you point out, at least 4-6 counties have been living on borrowed money and time for too long. A slimmed down no. of 1st class counties (perhaps 12) in a single division would reduce the no. of 4-day games and instantly create a window for a proper EPL.

    If you had a semi-professional minor counties league below this 12-strong first division, a regulated transfer market and promotion and relegation into and out of the lower league, you might create a viable first-class tournament that could be subsidised by 20/20, reduce the amount of cricket played and increase the quality like the Sheffield Shield. I cannot believe that there is no appetite for high quality games like Lancs vs Sussex 2007, described by the umpires as being as intense as a Test. But then, as you point out, this will never happen under the current voting structure. Turkeys, as we know, don't vote for Christmas!

  • POSTED BY Bosley on | July 17, 2008, 9:52 GMT

    Why is it that Andrew Miller gets it, all of the intelligent bloggers on this message board get it and everyone I know who is interested in the English game gets it, but the self centred, small minded county chairman don't. We have too many mediocre teams in the UK and something must be done. Here was a golden opportunity and they have blown it yet again!!!!

  • POSTED BY pardo on | July 17, 2008, 9:44 GMT

    Absolutely right. Even by the standards of cricket administrators this is an utterly moronic plan. The counties have shown time and time again, with this, Kolpak, the Sky TV deal for tests, that they are more concerned with feathering their own nests than improving the quality of English cricket. Eight city based teams is clearly the way to go.

    If one is Stanford's, the other 7 have 5 international and 6 English qualified players. That gives 42 English qualified players playing in a good hard league. The counties can have a three division "farm" league at the same time - minimum of 9 English qualified players - possibly with a rule that at least 3 have to be under 25. Each of the farm league teams are affiliated to a city franchise. No promotion or relegation. To make up the numbers Ireland and Scotland could be in, along with combined minor counties team.

    Apply the same format to the first class game, get the TV back on freeview, and watch the England team improve.

  • POSTED BY albion1 on | July 17, 2008, 9:01 GMT

    Agree. Away from 20:20 reduce first class cricket to 6 regional teams and the counties to clubs cf. grade cricket in Australia, perhaps in divsion with minor counties. There are still far too many average cricketers in county cricket and the money coming into the game is spent on them and Kolpakkers, instead of development. The smaller counties simply have no market and shoud not exist as professional sports teams end of story. Cricket is only attractive when it is the best against the best. Overseas players should be reviewed by a panel to decide whether they are good enough. Proper England trials matches should be instigated - I believe there would be a market.

    In many ways I am a traditionalist believe it or not - I like Test Matches and the four day game but the administrators are killing it by refusing to reform. The game has become properly professional in terms of pay but the structure and infrastructure has not.

  • POSTED BY El_toro on | July 17, 2008, 8:58 GMT

    Andrew Miller has hit the nail on the head. this is further proof (as if it were needed) that the counties are the enemy of English cricket. So obsessed are they with protecting their own short term interests that they have wasted the chance to create a truly world class competition. 20 teams is a ridiculous number, and with the finances spread so thinly across them it is inconceivable that many of the world's top players will be tempted to play in it. English cricket must divorce itself from the counties, the game is too important to allow them to ruin it.

  • POSTED BY Smurai99 on | July 17, 2008, 8:38 GMT

    "Broadcasters in this country and in Asia are interested in county sides - they are not interested in made-up sides," was Clarke's explanation.

    Clarke must be living in a different planet. The last time I checked Indian fans had no clue where Lancashire or Middlesex was? However, they were quick to recognize Manchester and London. The EPL should have been made up of 8 or at most 10 city based franchises. This EPL will not be marketable outside of the UK and hence not as cash rich as the IPL, hense it will be snubbed by foreign players and broadcasters.

  • POSTED BY uknsaunders on | July 17, 2008, 8:29 GMT

    At last an article that uses common sense! I agree with everything said and more. It's worth noting that a re-drawing of the boundaries would have made cricket more accessible to areas without a county side and probably boosted profits further.

    Regarding the EPL football comparison, let's not forget that the EPL is 19 clubs out of 92 and those 19 were trimmed down from 22 over the last 20 years. Most people still only watch the top 6-10 sides and that's generally where the money is. So I not sure what Clarke thinks he'll get by including all 18 counties + 2 others!

  • POSTED BY raghavmadan on | July 17, 2008, 8:19 GMT

    Oh how the mighty have fallen!!

    There was once a time, not too long ago, when people were calling for the heads of BCCI for allowing a preposterous thing like IPL to be born. These people include the ECB, the media, and most importantly, former players.

    And now...

    The ECB comes out with a second rate competition like this, thereby completely destroying any moral high ground that they claimed. Not to mention they have degraded themselves in the eyes of those who actually supported them. The media, nah, they never had any credibility in the first place. And finally, the former players. This will be a huge test to judge the hypocrisies of people like Tony Greig, who have criticized IPL at every level. Lets see you come back and do the same to the EPL now, eh?

  • POSTED BY 0NBH on | July 17, 2008, 8:02 GMT

    Absolute nonsense, the biggest wonder here is how someone this ill-informed has risen to such a journalistic post. It is hard to find where to begin criticising. How about: "Eighteen teams for a "Premier" competition is at least ten too many, and 20 is utter lunacy." Why? There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest such a format cannot work, as indeed it has with English domestic cricket and football for many years. "One Twenty20 competition per summer is quite sufficient; two in quick succession - and involving nine-tenths of the same competitors - defies any semblance of logic." No it doesn't. It is overkill for those who don't like it yes, but it needn't be a disaster. Managed well it would resemble the format for 50 over cricket used for decades in English cricket. "Six years on, that confederacy is alive and thriving, and the last chance for change has just been slogged out of the park." The same county cricket which has been praised by several former internationals? Right.

  • POSTED BY Katri on | July 17, 2008, 7:50 GMT

    I am not able to grasp the meaning of the statement "as EPL football demonstrated, quality has a habit of transcending culture". I will not be surprised if its a veiled criticism of the IPL. I have had it with the English press and its demonising and ridiculing of the IPL. The matches involved a lot of slam-bam, but the quality of the competing teams, the intensity with which they approached each game and the strategies used were as good as any top class International match. Its time the English press stopped drowning themselves in self pity by ruing the missed opportunity of commercializing the T20 format before India could. I not a biggest fan of Lalit Modi or the IPL but you have to hand it to appreciate his business acumen.

  • POSTED BY Shajii on | July 17, 2008, 7:40 GMT

    Andrew, I guess for sure, God Save Cricket from this no brainer officials, I doubt if these guys who manage are still thinking about cricket and its develpment or just looking to destroy this "so called Gentlemen's Game".

  • POSTED BY 9ST9 on | July 17, 2008, 5:30 GMT

    A 20 team tournament is no different from what is currently going on in England. County cricket's tradition needs to be preserved. To do that however the ECB could always have the county championship, which is tradition itself.But a 20-20 League of around 9 teams would have been a good option.The proposed competition based around the test grounds would have been a great success. And it would have helped the ECB fund the longer competition as well.

  • POSTED BY nirjraina on | July 17, 2008, 5:25 GMT

    The bottom line is that a cricket league cannot succeed in a nation that doesn't give two hoots for the game. Any suggestion that the EPL could rival the IPL in terms of revenue or viewership is a joke for this reason.

  • POSTED BY IPLFan on | July 17, 2008, 5:12 GMT

    I agree mostly with Andrew. Bradshaw-Stewart plan was one chance for ECB to create a rival for IPL, but they botched it. However, I think this new league might turn out to be a success too. Even though there are 18+2 teams, there are only 10 in the First division, so EPL I division will not be much different from IPL. And biggest advantage of EPL, as Andrew noted, is the availability of players from all the countries.

    Let's wait and watch.

  • POSTED BY HardWorkingStudentWannabe on | July 17, 2008, 5:09 GMT

    Well for once the ECB got the chance to radically overhaul the way cricket is presented and marketed and they royally blew it. I ask if the new English Premier League is organized then whats the point behind the Twenty20 Cup? Isn"t it abit inane? City based sides would have been the best to go for with around 6 sides being based in england,1 in Wales and another each in Scotland and Ireland. Or if Market forces predicted better profits then 8 sides in England and 1 in Wales. There have been quite a few instances where leagues comprised of newly formed franchises have been immensely succesful.The J-League in Japan, the Super 12/14 rugby union championship in the Southern Hemisphere ad of of course the manificently successful IPL..Even the MLS in US has been moderately succesful.

  • POSTED BY redneck on | July 17, 2008, 5:01 GMT

    the west indies lunch has been cut not once but twice now! not only does their home season come during the indian premier league but now the english premier league aswell!!! also i wonder if the the real english premier league (soccer) will take issue with a english cricket league going by the same name??? the ecb would be wise to change the name of it now before it sticks or it could be one massive court case in the english courts!

  • POSTED BY vswami on | July 17, 2008, 4:36 GMT

    To compare with soccer EPL is quite incorrect for many reasons. In soccer, there is no competition for EPL from India. Other leagues like Bundesliga, Spanish League, Italian leagues etc. are not accessible to Indian public due to poor timing, lack of appreciation of local rivalries, and they simply haven't made any effort to reach out. Even if EPL(cricket) has quality cricket, it will simply lack the Indian masala to make it as popular with people as IPL was. IPL is more than cricket, its a fusion of cricket and celebrity culture thats peculiar to Indian context. A better analogy is to compare Hollywood and Indian film industry. People may watch Hollywood movies in India but they are not as passionate about it as they are about Indian movies and Indian movie stars.

  • POSTED BY Sekhar_S on | July 17, 2008, 3:49 GMT

    I,an Asian myself,find that very few people are interested in watching the Eng-SA test matches.About 99% of the population here does not know that a county cricket tournament is going on in England presently.Wonder what Clarke had in his mind when he made the statement that broadcasters are not interested in made-up sides.

  • POSTED BY BritishKiwi on | July 17, 2008, 3:18 GMT

    I agree. I gasped when i first heard that 18 + 2 would be used.

    EPL will not be sucessful. Cant happen. The idea is neither here or there when it comes to satisfying needs. Disappointing to say the least.

  • POSTED BY jayray999 on | July 17, 2008, 3:18 GMT

    Andrew. What do you mean by this statement?

    "Now, India will never be rivalled as the most significant market in world cricket, but as football's EPL has demonstrated, quality has a habit of transcending culture."

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY jayray999 on | July 17, 2008, 3:18 GMT

    Andrew. What do you mean by this statement?

    "Now, India will never be rivalled as the most significant market in world cricket, but as football's EPL has demonstrated, quality has a habit of transcending culture."

  • POSTED BY BritishKiwi on | July 17, 2008, 3:18 GMT

    I agree. I gasped when i first heard that 18 + 2 would be used.

    EPL will not be sucessful. Cant happen. The idea is neither here or there when it comes to satisfying needs. Disappointing to say the least.

  • POSTED BY Sekhar_S on | July 17, 2008, 3:49 GMT

    I,an Asian myself,find that very few people are interested in watching the Eng-SA test matches.About 99% of the population here does not know that a county cricket tournament is going on in England presently.Wonder what Clarke had in his mind when he made the statement that broadcasters are not interested in made-up sides.

  • POSTED BY vswami on | July 17, 2008, 4:36 GMT

    To compare with soccer EPL is quite incorrect for many reasons. In soccer, there is no competition for EPL from India. Other leagues like Bundesliga, Spanish League, Italian leagues etc. are not accessible to Indian public due to poor timing, lack of appreciation of local rivalries, and they simply haven't made any effort to reach out. Even if EPL(cricket) has quality cricket, it will simply lack the Indian masala to make it as popular with people as IPL was. IPL is more than cricket, its a fusion of cricket and celebrity culture thats peculiar to Indian context. A better analogy is to compare Hollywood and Indian film industry. People may watch Hollywood movies in India but they are not as passionate about it as they are about Indian movies and Indian movie stars.

  • POSTED BY redneck on | July 17, 2008, 5:01 GMT

    the west indies lunch has been cut not once but twice now! not only does their home season come during the indian premier league but now the english premier league aswell!!! also i wonder if the the real english premier league (soccer) will take issue with a english cricket league going by the same name??? the ecb would be wise to change the name of it now before it sticks or it could be one massive court case in the english courts!

  • POSTED BY HardWorkingStudentWannabe on | July 17, 2008, 5:09 GMT

    Well for once the ECB got the chance to radically overhaul the way cricket is presented and marketed and they royally blew it. I ask if the new English Premier League is organized then whats the point behind the Twenty20 Cup? Isn"t it abit inane? City based sides would have been the best to go for with around 6 sides being based in england,1 in Wales and another each in Scotland and Ireland. Or if Market forces predicted better profits then 8 sides in England and 1 in Wales. There have been quite a few instances where leagues comprised of newly formed franchises have been immensely succesful.The J-League in Japan, the Super 12/14 rugby union championship in the Southern Hemisphere ad of of course the manificently successful IPL..Even the MLS in US has been moderately succesful.

  • POSTED BY IPLFan on | July 17, 2008, 5:12 GMT

    I agree mostly with Andrew. Bradshaw-Stewart plan was one chance for ECB to create a rival for IPL, but they botched it. However, I think this new league might turn out to be a success too. Even though there are 18+2 teams, there are only 10 in the First division, so EPL I division will not be much different from IPL. And biggest advantage of EPL, as Andrew noted, is the availability of players from all the countries.

    Let's wait and watch.

  • POSTED BY nirjraina on | July 17, 2008, 5:25 GMT

    The bottom line is that a cricket league cannot succeed in a nation that doesn't give two hoots for the game. Any suggestion that the EPL could rival the IPL in terms of revenue or viewership is a joke for this reason.

  • POSTED BY 9ST9 on | July 17, 2008, 5:30 GMT

    A 20 team tournament is no different from what is currently going on in England. County cricket's tradition needs to be preserved. To do that however the ECB could always have the county championship, which is tradition itself.But a 20-20 League of around 9 teams would have been a good option.The proposed competition based around the test grounds would have been a great success. And it would have helped the ECB fund the longer competition as well.

  • POSTED BY Shajii on | July 17, 2008, 7:40 GMT

    Andrew, I guess for sure, God Save Cricket from this no brainer officials, I doubt if these guys who manage are still thinking about cricket and its develpment or just looking to destroy this "so called Gentlemen's Game".